Internet access is likely the lifeblood of your business, running everything from your cloud-based software to your information research, your email infrastructure and potentially even your phone system, so when was the last time you audited your speeds, and are you using the right solution for your business? Most of us only check speeds when there is a speed issue – those times when your team is complaining that the internet is really slow – but what if your speeds are always below average and you just don’t realise? Your business might benefit from ethernet, so we thought we’d give you the facts to help you make a decision.

Ethernet versus broadband. What’s the difference?

Broadband is a publicly available network, used for both domestic and commercial settings. It is delivered via a UK-wide network that any property can quickly and easily tap into. Ethernet on the other hand is a private network, which is more commonly used in commercial settings such as offices, and which is a dedicated, business-grade line just for your business. Sound confusing? A simple way to think of it is this: Broadband is a motorway – it’s easy to get to and use, is designed for a specific purpose, and has peaks and troughs in traffic through the day. Anyone can use it, sometimes it is fast, sometimes it is slow, and you’re at the mercy of accidents and hold ups. You also have to work to someone else’s timetable for repairs and upgrades. Ethernet on the other hand is a private road – only you can use it, it has been built specifically for you and your needs, speeds are largely unlimited (and mostly limited by your office equipment capabilities), you can drive in whatever lane you want, and you can add more lanes if you need to. You are in total control, and because you are in charge, you can also get repairs and fixes immediately if you need them.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? So is it too good to be true?

Ethernet: the pros & cons

The biggest benefit of ethernet is its overall performance. It is quicker, more reliable and efficient, which in turn boosts the productivity of your team through faster load speeds and less down time. So if it’s that great, why isn’t everyone doing it? Well, we agree, but the biggest reason most businesses don’t switch to ethernet is the cost or rather the perceived cost. Most of us are used to the process and cost of installing and using broadband at home, which gives us an expectation that broadband has a price tag somewhere between £30 and £60 per month. This gives us a similar expectation for our office broadband, but when you think about it, we’re asking it to do two extremely different things. Typically, home users have a limited number of users (say a family of four), and use it for consistent speeds for certain things e.g. streaming. A business on the other hand tends to have more users, all working on different things simultaneously, usually while uploading and downloading to some sort of cloud based software. So why do we expect a domestic grade broadband to cope? When considering actual monetary cost, ethernet is typically more expensive per month, and there is an up-front installation cost, however that’s a really bad way to consider it. Ethernet also boosts team productivity quite demonstrably, by helping them to access files more quickly, complete their work more quickly, and ensure that they aren’t limited by internet downtime and outages. It can even enable businesses to add more time-saving software to their network, because they have the bandwidth to support it, gaining even more efficiencies. For one of our clients, ethernet was twice as expensive on paper as broadband. Once it was installed however, they were able to immediately boost productivity by the equivalent of six working hours per week across a team of ten, saving them ten times the increased cost of the ethernet in lost wages, not to mention the monetary gains made through simply outputting more work.

So, the pros:

  • overall speed: even at a basic level, ethernet is faster, but it is also largely unlimited. As your team grows, you can quickly and easily add more and more and more bandwidth to your contract, so your team never experiences a slow down in speeds.
  • dedicated, consistent speed: because the ethernet line is yours and yours alone, whatever bandwidth you are buying is yours. That means you’re not sharing it with anyone else in the street, and you won’t get a dip in speeds when more users logon somewhere nearby.
  • better security: as the connection is yours, you have total control over who has access to the network, when and how. This makes it much, much more difficult to hack, making it a much safer option for your cybersecurity.
  • more reliable: ethernet is a true, business grade connection which means that it experiences less problems, has a 99.9% ‘up’ time and also has a same day fix promise in the majority of cases.
  • designed for businesses, not households: unlike broadband which originated for the domestic, residential market, ethernet is business first, giving you access to better support, more flexibility and lots of additional business benefits, when compared with broadband.

and the cons:

  • higher monetary cost: as we’ve already covered above, on its own, ethernet has a higher direct cost than broadband. These costs are usually more than offset by the productivity benefits, but on paper, you will be paying more each month. Ethernet also usually runs for a 36 month contract compared with broadband’s 24 month, but this is typically in line with businesses’ 3 to 5 year planning anyway.
  • installation delays: unlike broadband where connections can be almost instant or ‘plug and go’, you do have to wait for an installation date for your ethernet. It is however usually only a couple of weeks, so you’ll be enjoying mega speeds before you know it!

Broadband: the pros and cons

Broadband is really familiar and straightforward, making it the default choice for many businesses. You know how and where to buy it, and it can be set up in a matter of minutes with a mainstream provider that you already know and possibly even use. Ethernet on the other hand sounds far more complicated (even though it isn’t for you, just us), and this puts many businesses off. It’s also worth adding that not every business needs ethernet, and for some, particularly small businesses and / or those without much cloud software, broadband will be exactly what you need.

So, the pros:

  • readily available: there is an established infrastructure across the UK, you can get connected in a matter of minutes (if you have the right hardware) and you can get going straightaway. You can also often reuse equipment that you already have, and / or  get hold of the hardware quickly and easily.
  • choice of suppliers: for those who love a choice, broadband comes with a choice of suppliers, both in terms of performance i.e. bandwidth and speeds, and price. You can compare them and pick and choose the one you like the most. The ethernet cable network on the other hand most commonly has a single supplier for a specific region, so you’ll need to use your local one, purchased through a supplier like Eurolink.
  • ‘cheaper’: as we’ve already covered above, broadband typically has a lower monetary cost than ethernet each month. This isn’t the case when you consider productivity and some of the other benefits of ethernet, but if you want to consider it literally, broadband is cheaper.

and the cons:

  • variable speeds: while you will be quoted a maximum speed your broadband can reach, whether you can actually obtain those speeds is dependent on how many houses in the street use the same connection, how many people are logged on, and what they are doing.
  • no guarantees: with ethernet, you have ‘service level agreements’ in place which help to guarantee performance and hold the network accountable. For broadband however, these are just general, so it makes it a lot harder to guarantee what you will actually receive.

Is ethernet right for your business?

Not every business needs ethernet, but it is a great support for many modern business systems. Here’s just some of the scenarios in which it might benefit your business:

  • your team complains of slow speeds – ethernet gives you dedicated and consistent speeds
  • your internet loses connection frequently – ethernet has a 99.9% up time
  • you use a lot of cloud based software – ethernet has dedicated, fast upload and download, making it far more suitable for those using cloud software
  • you have an extensive network – if you have PCs and phones pushing and pulling data over your internet connection, and you have lots of users
  • you have a team working from home – while your ethernet in the office won’t actually improve your employees’ home connections, it will ensure that your office connection isn’t slowing things down further. It’s a more efficient way to work and support flexible working.

Sound good? We can source and install ethernet almost anywhere in the UK, and we are happy to provide a no obligation audit to tell you what speeds you can get, what the cost and installation will be, and what the timeframe is for installation. Speak to our team on 01453 700 800 for more information.